Dalton Madden, a senior at New Foundations Charter School in Philadelphia, Pa., stands in front of a packed assembly. Convened by New Foundations’ Project Ignition Team, this assembly’s purpose was to allow a space for the team to educate about the danger of distracted driving behavior and the importance of proper seatbelt usage. Dalton, having been involved in a tragic car accident that claimed the life of a fellow student in 2013, was inspired to tell his story, bravely, in front of his gathered peers, to bring home the reality of vehicular accidents. “I joined the Project Ignition Team because I wanted to spread awareness about the importance of safe driving, and to potentially save someone the pain and tragedy that I had to deal with. I lived through a devastating experience and I hope to change at least one person’s habit to put on a seatbelt so that they don’t live through the same,” said Dalton.
The assembly wasn’t purely for presentation, however. The PI team presented facts about distracted driving and seatbelt usage, engaging their peers to contemplate the numbers and the reality of unsafe driving behavior. In fact, the assembly was a culmination. The PI team at New Foundations was recognized by State Farm’s Celebrate My Drive competition as one of the top 100 national finalists, a result of a body of work that successfully engages youth to change. If chosen, New Foundations will receive a $100,000 grant to continue teen driver safety education and other general education needs.
In partnership with NHTSA, NYLC and Project Ignition are working to change how youth use and view seatbelts. At PI schools like New Foundations, youth are leading service-learning projects that engage habits and organically challenge their peers to change their unsafe driving behavior. New Foundations’ PI Team wrote a pledge for each homeroom to sign onto and display in their classrooms as a daily reminder of their commitment: “I pledge to wear my seatbelt each and every time I enter a vehicle, as a driver or a passenger. I will do my best to keep myself and others safe while driving.” All twelve homerooms committed to the pledge.
“I’m part of the PI team because I feel it’s right to promote the importance of safe driving. This group made me realize how amazing young people are, just by coming together to work to solve a really important issue,” said New Foundations’ student Hayley Burke.
Learn more about Project Ignition.